Rap on Race

Photo by Gabriel Bienzycki
Photo by Gabriel Bienzycki

In 1970, two towering personalities of American intelligentsia, writer James Baldwin and anthropologist Margaret Mead, sat together and recorded a conversation about the defining subject of the American experience: race. Mead, 68 years old, white and liberal, was the most famous anthropologist on the planet. Baldwin, 46, black, living in exile in France, was one of the most prominent novelists of his era. The two had never met before. Their conversation, carried out in three long sessions over two days, was tape recorded, transcribed, and published as a book.

For this devised dance/theater project, TONY nominated and Bessie Award Winning director/choreographer Donald Byrd joins forces with MacArthur Fellow (Genius Award) theater artist Anna Deavere Smith to excavate new meaning from this cultural artifact. The artists will introduce a “theater of disruption” using dance, text, music, mise-en-scène, sound, voice, media and speculation to disrupt the boundaries between dance and theater, and engage audiences in difficult and intractable issues.

The artists compare the conversation to a virtuosic pas de deux with a back and forth similar to jazz – improvisational, responsive and technically brilliant. Using the apparatus of the body with elements of tonality, rhythm and texture, the artists will exploit underlying notions of race to infuse more honesty and activate authorities. By incorporating documentary material, media and research from recent political happenings Byrd and Deavere Smith will confront the idea that we are a post-racial society, and disrupt the familiar, self-censored, ‘preaching to the choir’ conversations around race.

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Donald Byrd’s Twitter

Anna Deavere Smith’s Facebook page

Anna Deavere Smith’s Twitter

Spectrum Dance Theater’s Facebook page

Spectrum Dance Theater’s Twitter

Spectrum Dance Theater’s Instagram

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